Pennsylvania launched largest state bridge renovation program in American history just two weeks before Pittsburgh bridge collapse

On January 14, 2022—just two weeks before the Frick Park Bridge collapsed near Pittsburgh, injuring ten people—Pennsylvania launched the largest bridge renovation formula program in American history.

The renewal program is made possible by the passage of the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, through which the state is set to receive $1.6 billion to fix over 3000 of its bridges, which had been allowed to deteriorate as a result of budget cuts during earlier conservative administrations.

This is a historic investment for Pennsylvania, and for our nation,” said Governor Tom Wolf. “Thank you to the Biden Administration for their steadfast leadership and for their commitment to Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Strong infrastructure is critical to the quality of life for all Pennsylvanians, especially strong, safe bridges. Bridges are the lifelines that connect our communities to one another, while modern, reliable infrastructure is essential for Pennsylvania-based businesses to expand.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law represents the largest investment ever made in fixing bridges; dedicating $26.5 billion to states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico over the five years of the law and $825 million for Tribal transportation facilities. The amount that will be available to states in Fiscal Year 2022 is $5.3 billion along with the $165 million for tribes. Today, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) also published initial guidance on the program.

“​The Biden-Harris Administration is thrilled to launch this program to fix thousands of bridges across the country – the largest investment of its kind in U.S. history,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “Modernizing America’s bridges will help improve safety, support economic growth and make people’s lives better in every part of the country – in rural, suburban, city, and tribal communities.

Nationwide, the Bridge Funding Program is expected to help repair approximately 15,000 bridges. In addition to providing funds to states to replace, rehabilitate, preserve, protect, and construct highway bridges, the Bridge Formula Program has dedicated funding for Tribal transportation facility bridges as well as “off-system” bridges, locally owned facilities which are those not on the federal-aid highway system.

This record amount of funding, made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will allow states and tribal governments to fix the bridges most in need of repair,” Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Stephanie Pollack said.

It will also modernize them to withstand the effects of climate change and to make them safer for all users, including cyclists and pedestrians. Every state has bridges in poor condition and in need of repair, including bridges with weight restrictions, that may force lengthy detours for travelers, school buses, first responders, or trucks carrying freight,” she added.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes an incentive for states to direct the new Bridge Formula Program funds to off-system bridges owned by a county, city, town, or other local agency. While states normally must match federal funding with up to 20 percent state or local funding, the guidance issued today notes that federal funds can be used for 100 percent of the cost of repairing or rehabilitating such locally owned off-system bridges.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is a once-in-a-generation investment in infrastructure, which will grow the economy, enhance U.S. competitiveness in the world, create good jobs, and make our transportation system more sustainable and equitable. Specific to the FHWA, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides more than $350 billion over five fiscal years for surface transportation programs.

Photo of the collapsed Frick Park Bridge courtesy of the City of Pittsburgh.

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